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School districts, organizations honored for outstanding practices in child nutrition programs

Posted: Sep 8, 2020
Author: Ann Bush

Programs help support Kansans Can vision

Eight Kansas school districts, three organizations and a group of leaders were honored Tuesday, Sept. 8, for outstanding practices in Child Nutrition and Wellness programs that help support the Kansans Can vision.

The Kansans Can 2019-2020 Best Practice Awards were presented during the Kansas State Board of Education meeting in Topeka. This is the fourth year for the awards.

The Kansans Can vision, which was established by the State Board of Education in 2015, is “Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.”

The recipients and the award they received are:

  • Wamego USD 320: Kansans Can Implement Innovative Meal Pattern Strategies – Because of the unanticipated school building closures in March, Wamego Unified School District 320 switched from cafeteria meal service to a grab-and-go model with four sites and a home-delivery model with less than 24 hours of notice. Wamego stepped up to the challenge to continue to service delicious meals in a grab-and-go format that included fresh fruits, vegetables and fresh baked breads using a leading industry bagging system. Parents reported children were trying new foods and breakfast participation increased 249% because of the exceptional food quality of the grab-and-go meals.
  • Haven USD 312: Kansans Can Serve Local Foods – Going green took on new meaning at the Haven High School greenhouse in Have USD 312. By mid-March, the greenhouse was in full production and growing enough kale, Romaine lettuce and microgreens to support student demand in the school lunch program. Students not only grew the fresh greens, but also grew to love the fresh produce offered on the salad bar.
  • Elk Valley USD 283: - Kansans Can Serve Local Foods – Students put fresh, local foods on the plate in child nutrition programs from the on-campus garden and vo-ag classes in Elk Valley USD 283. Working year-round in the garden and raising pigs, students at Elk Valley provided fresh produce and pork for breakfast, lunch and Summer Food Service Programs. Produce grown and donated to district food service included onions, kale, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans, salad greens, carrots, beets, melons and more, which saved the district more than $500 in food costs. Participation in meals increased more than 30% because of the quality of the student-grown foods.
  • Topeka USD 501: Kansans Can Provide Outstanding Customer Service – Developing strong community partnerships was key to ensuring that children had access to nutritious foods when schools closed this spring because of COVID-19. Through innovative outreach strategies, Topeka USD 501’s Chris Wagner and Nicole Jahnke worked with churches, libraries, civic organizations and local businesses to maximize communications and increase access to meals beginning in March and continuing through the summer – even expanding meals to seven days per week throughout the summer. They reported an 83% increase in summer meals from June 2019 to June 2020.
  • McPherson USD 418: Kansans Can Provide Outstanding Customer Service – Customer service is alive and well in central Kansas. Not only did McPherson USD 418 serve summer meals at five sites throughout the McPherson community, but the district provided meals to children in surrounding communities when other school districts ended meal service in May. Under the leadership of Bill Froese, McPherson served more than 151,731 meals through July 2020 – a 1,360% increase over last summer.
  • Maize USD 266: Kansans Can Provide Outstanding Customer Service – The Maize USD 266 maintenance department provided exceptional internal and external customer service during 2020 unanticipated school closure emergency feeding. Under the leadership of Joe Naputi, Stan Starkey and George Gruver, maintenance staff members worked alongside food service staff members to implement a positive experience for kids participating in curbside meal pick-up. Maintenance staff members moved refrigeration, loaded meals in cargo vans and more. Most memorable was the maintenance team initiating costumes and wearing them to entertain the community at meal distributions.
  • First Choice Support Services Inc.: Kansans Can Step Up to Lead – First Choice Support Services had two staff members step up to lead during the past year by implementing innovative services. Sierra Sheets took initiative to develop monthly newsletters in Spanish to increase provider understanding of Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) program procedures and help them gain knowledge of best practices. Mercedes Morgan took the initiative to create online trainings during COVID-19 that promoted CACFP educational tools and best practices, as well as practical information on implementation of CACFP regulations.
  • Navigating Change 2020 Food Service Operations Committee: Kansans Can Step Up to Lead – It is important to ensure all children have access to school meals, regardless of the learning environment. For the health and well-being of students, continuation and adaptation of meal service in some form should remain a priority in the 2020-2021 school year. KSDE extends its sincere appreciation to the members of the Navigating Change Food Service Committee who stepped up to lead and donated their time to research and then develop considerations for food service operations to be included in KSDE’s Navigating Change: Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations. Members included:
  • Jessica Younker, chair, Hays USD 489
  • Nancy Coughenour, Shawnee Mission USD 512
  • Connie Kimzey, Cherokee USD 247
  • Lori Campbell, Silver Lake USD 372
  • Tracy Moerer, Burlington USD 244
  • Megan Barnard, Maize USD 266
  • Wamego USD 320: Kansans Can Increase Participation – Implementation of the 2nd Chance Breakfast was the key to increased breakfast participation at Wamego High School. The addition of 2nd Chance Breakfast not only increased total participation by 139% in the school breakfast program, data from the first year indicates that more students in the reduced-price and paid categories are eating breakfast.
  • Haven USD 312: Kansans Can Increase Participation – Changes to the school day schedule at Haven High School created more challenges for students to eat a healthy breakfast at the start of the school day. A proactive approach doubled breakfast participation with the implementation of a 2nd Chance Breakfast option offered between first and second hours at the high school.
  • Southern Lyon County USD 252: Kansans Can Increase Participation – Southern Lyon County USD 252 implemented 2nd Chance Breakfast at Olpe High School in 2018 and saw a 91% increase. The program was such a success that the district applied for an innovative breakfast grant for the 2019-2020 school year to implement 2nd Chance Breakfast at Hartford High School in 2019. As anticipated, breakfast participation increased at Hartford by 46%. As a part of school redesign, Hartford Junior-Senior High School students helped with the 2nd Chance Breakfast in conjunction with their applied business class. Jane Kelley, a business teacher, and Anna Baum, food service director, worked with the students on meal patterns, inventory and more.
  • Liberal USD 480: Kansans Can Increase Participation – Liberal USD 480 has seen success at every level by implementing innovative breakfast delivery models district-wide as part of school redesign. The 71% increase in breakfast participation is attributed to using different approaches at different grade levels. The district implemented breakfast in the classroom in elementary schools and 2nd Chance Breakfast at secondary schools. Connie Vogts, foodservice director, has been a mentor and source of information as other Kansas school districts work to develop innovative breakfast service models and positively impact student success.
  • Quality Care Services Inc.: Kansans Can Increase Participation – Intent on increasing participation in the CACFP, Quality Care Service, previously an exclusive sponsor of day care homes, began sponsoring child care centers in the fall of 2019. Quality Care Services increased participation in the CACFP not only by the addition of two day care centers, but also increased participation of day care homes in the underserved counties of Pottawatomie and Riley. When national participation trends for sponsors of day care homes was headed downward, Quality Care Services’ growth headed upward.
  • St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church: Kansans Can Increase Participation – St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church has been a Summer Food Service sponsor and a sponsor of CACFP for many years. This year because of unanticipated school closures, St John’s Missionary Baptist Church started their Summer Food Service Program in March and increased sites to help meet the nutritional needs of the children in Salina. They sponsored sites not only at the church, but at the YMCA, library and two schools.  This proactive approach to meet the needs of children in their community resulted in participation doubling from the previous summer. They have served more than 16,000 meals through July and continued to serve summer meals through Aug. 28.
  • Maize USD 266: Kansans Can Adapt –Lynn Scott and Lynette Drevo, Maize USD 266 food service employees, were instrumental in orchestrating the production of meals served during the spring 2020 unanticipated school building closures. They utilized existing inventory, managed shortages from suppliers and daily production numbers to launch the Seamless Summer Option at Maize, which had never been offered before.  They teamed up to design and perfect the process of bagging individual breakfast and lunches into a larger bag for curbside pick-up of multiple days’ worth of meals to minimize potential COVID-19. Maize served more than 89,049 meals using a two-day-a-week curbside pick-up model.
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